LUSAKA, Feb 10 - The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) is working on a gradual phasing out of leaded petrol at the Indeni fuel refinery, which should take full effect by December 31, 2005.
ERB public relations officer Yammie Chanda said on Monday that the phasing out of leaded petrol on the market was in line with the agreement by the entire sub-Saharan Africa region agreement to rid the region of harzadous fuels.
Five East African countries have already given their local oil marketing companies up to March 2004 in which to phase out leaded petrol, a measure taken purely on grave environmental concerns.
Ms Chanda said the phasing out of leaded petrol at Indeni refinery would translate into the plant producing unleaded petrol instead of relying on imported products.
Mrs Chanda, however, said "during the transition of phasing out leaded petrol, both leaded and unleaded petrol shall be sold in parallel until leaded petrol is phased out."
She said Zambian oil marketing companies had been uplifting their products from Indeni, which currently produces leaded petrol, while the unleaded petrol was imported as a finished product mainly from South Africa.
"In fact, the ERB has reduced the lead content in the leaded petrol from 0.4 grams per litre to 0.2 grams, which is a step towards the phasing out of leaded petrol."
And the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) has said that while it was difficult to take immediate action and phase out leaded petrol on the market, the side effects of emitted lead in the air were quite dire.
ECZ spokesperson Justin Mukosa said in an interview, "When moving vehicles using leaded fuel exhaust fumes in the air, the lead falls to the ground.
The lead then goes underground and contaminates the underground water system.
"This lead that is discharged also affects the soil and in turn affects crops and crop production.
But the worst effect of the discharged leaded fumes is, it might have serious mental health repercussions on human beings."
Mr Mukosa said the ECZ had been holding meetings with the ERB to see how well they could tackle the phasing out process of leaded fuel.
And according to Uganda's Monitor newspaper, Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea, Kenya and Ethiopia signed an agreement to phase out leaded petrol in 2002 in accordance with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), and the Johannesburg 2002 Partnership for Clean Vehicles and Fuels founded at the World Summit on Sustainability.